Fine Print: New Jersey’s Strategic Investment Plan

Tom Johnson | August 6, 2012 | Energy & Environment
Public gets two opportunities to comment on revised -- and withdrawn -- plan

What it is: The Christie administration’s overhaul of the original State Plan and Redevelopment Plan, a document that both advocates and critics say failed to achieve its goal of stemming suburban sprawl and targeting growth back to urban areas with the infrastructure to handle it.

What’s new: The Office of Planning Advocacy announced on Friday two new public hearings on the revised plan, one in Toms River on September10 and another in Jersey City on September 13. The hearings will be the public’s first opportunity to comment on the plan, which was suddenly shelved by the administration to undergo revisions in April.

What’s not yet new: Details about what revisions were made by the office in the more than three months since the plan was pulled by the administration. According to an email received from the office after this story was originally published, it is “planning on having the public hearings on the original draft and will not be presenting revisions to the public until after the public hearings.”

Why it’s important: The administration views the plan as a blueprint for spurring economic growth in New Jersey, at the same time as protecting open space and environmentally sensitive areas. It aims to achieve those goals by setting up geographic zones (clusters) to attract high-growth industries, such as manufacturing, technology, and financial services.

Why smart growth advocates like the plan: It directs state agencies to align their spending and investments behind the plan’s goals, one of the major failures of the decade-old original State Plan. In the past, state agencies never targeted investments and resources where the state purportedly wanted growth to occur — urban areas with the water and transit infrastructure to accommodate growth.

Why some groups don’t like the plan: Some environmental groups fear the new plan will lead to economic development trumping the preservation of open space and environmental protections. A new steering committee headed by the lieutenant governor will resolve conflicts between state agencies in implementing the plan. A state official said in April the changes in the plan will provide more details and transparency about how that steering committee will operate.

What’s next: The New Jersey State Planning Commission will have 60 days after the last public hearing to legally adopt the draft. When that happens, state agencies should release their own draft strategic plans that describe how they will advance its goals.

This story was edited after it was originally published.